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Utah Utes basketball: Runnin' Utes trying to get legs back after break

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 28 2011 11:08 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — There haven't been many times in recent years where a Utah basketball team was able to get four days off over the Christmas holidays. Most years, the Utes have had a game soon after Christmas and needed to practice, often on Christmas Day.

Because the Utes don't have a game before Saturday's Pac-12 opener at Colorado, the Ute coaches and players had a chance to take a few extra days off to celebrate Christmas.

They came back to practice Tuesday, ready to start their Pac-12 experience in Boulder Saturday at 4 p.m..

"We're trying to get our sea legs back after a few days off for Christmas," said coach Larry Krystkowiak. "We need to concentrate and get back into it — it's been hard. But we kind of anticipated it after that break."

The players enjoyed the break, but are ready to start the Pac-12 season.

"We're looking forward to it," said Ute center Jason Washburn. "We've played against teams like this before and it's not like we're going to the Pac-12 to be intimidated by anybody. We're just going to play our hearts out and let the results take care of themselves."

HOLIDAY GAMES: You have to go back to 1955 to find a year when the Utah basketball team didn't play any games between Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. Last year was the closest when the Utes played on Christmas Day in Hawaii before a New Year's Eve game at Portland.

Most years, the Utes have had at least two games in the holiday period and over a 15-year stretch from 1957 to 1971, the Utes had three games every year between Christmas and New Year's.

SLIGHT RETREAT: Most coaches talk about getting better every day and how that's the main way to judge their team's progress.

Krystkowiak admitted that his team took a bit of a step backward last week in losing to Weber State by 29 points after winning consecutive games against Idaho State and Portland.

"That's what season is all about," he said. "We're not going to always take steps forward. Sometimes you have to retreat a little bit in order to advance."

Krystkowiak gave a lot of credit to Weber State, but said his team's poor shooting and lack of depth hurt the Utes.

LOW STATS: It's obviously been a rough year for the basketball team and it shows in the Pac-12 statistics.

The Utes rank near the bottom in nearly every team category in the latest Pac-12 statistics.

They are 12th in scoring margin, field-goal percentage defense, 3-point defense, rebounding margin, blocked shots and steals. They are 11th in scoring offense, scoring defense, field-goal percentage, assists, turnover margin and 3-pointers made.

Surprisingly one place Utah ranks high in the Pac-12 is attendance — third in the league with 8,156, behind only Arizona and Washington. That's paid attendance as anyone who's been to a game knows the actual fans in the seats is about half that.

UTE NOTES: Saturday's game will be televised on ROOT Sports and broadcast on 99.1 FM . . . Colorado's leading scorer is Carlon Brown, who played three years at Utah. The only players left who played with Brown are Jason Washburn, Chris Hines and David Foster. ... Two players sat out part of Wednesday's practice — Hines, who is still nursing the broken bone in his left thumb and guard Cedric Martin, who has a plantar fascia injury. ... Immediately after Wednesday morning's practice, Krystkowiak left on a short recruiting trip to Arizona.

email: sor@desnews.com

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